By Ann McCreary

By a wide margin, Twisp voters are approving a new 0.2 percent sales tax to raise money to fund transportation improvements in town.

The proposition on the Aug. 2 primary election was passing with 73 percent of Twisp voters approving funding a new Transportation Benefit District  (TBD) through the sales tax, based on the votes counted as of Monday (Aug. 8).

The Twisp Town Council created the Transportation Benefit District, a special taxing entity, to pay for street maintenance and other transportation-related improvements in the town. The sales tax is expected to generate about $45,000 for the district.

The district boundaries are the same as the town boundaries, and the Twisp Town Council serves as the governing board.

Twisp has developed an extensive list of transportation projects that it hopes to accomplish in the next 20 years with federal, state and local funding. Twisp will begin receiving revenue from the new sales tax by late spring of 2017, said Andrew Denham, Twisp public works director.

The TBD will provide money to accomplish projects that are not eligible for state or federal funding. The projects include chip sealing gravel streets, repairing potholes, sealing cracks and paving town public parking lots.

The TBD will also provide a reserve fund for equipment and emergency repairs, and matching funds for state and federal transportation grants.

Passage of the TBD also puts the town in a stronger position to compete for grants, Denham said.

Project possibilities

Representatives of the state’s Transportation Improvement Board toured Twisp with Denham last week to “talk about all the projects and see how much they would be willing to help us in 2017-2018,” he said.

State transportation officials said voter approval of the TBD “was an indication to them that the community is behind what we’re trying to do with our transportation. That sends a signal to the board” that approves grants to communities around the state, Denham said. 

The state recently announced a new program that will provide grants for pedestrian and bike paths. To be considered for the grants, communities must be nominated by government agencies involved in the process.

“The TBD makes us more desirable for nomination to this program. We’re putting ourselves in a great position to get the maximum benefit from the state,” Denham said.

The TBD funding can also be used to subcontract with contractors working on state and federal grant-funded projects in Twisp. That will enable the town to complete additional work with local funds at lower cost because contractors are already on site, Denham said.

Twisp will develop a plan for projects to be funded by the new sales taxes after town officials know what projects will be awarded state and federal money.